Monday, November 30, 2020

Book Review: Murder, She Wrote: Brandy & Bullets by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

Brandy and Bullets (Murder, She Wrote, #4)Murder, She Wrote: Brandy & Bullets.  Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain.  Berkley Books (1995). 275 pages. Genre:  Cozy Mystery. 

First Lines:  "'The usual, Jess?'  'Not today, Mara.  Spring has sprung and I've sworn off blueberry pancakes.  Bikini season's just around the corner.'"

Summary:  Something new is coming to Cabot Cove.  Mr. Worrell has just sold his family mansion to an investment banking group who plan to turn the mansion into a retreat center for creative people.  Most of the town is opposed to this because everyone knows, "that writers drink a lot, and even use drugs", which invariably leads to problems.  Jessica encourages her fellow townsfolk to give the Worrell Institute for Creativity a chance.  She believes it could spawn a cultural center of which they could all be proud.  

Whether or not the people of Cabot Cove want the retreat center, the investors have purchased the mansion and proceed with their plan.  On opening night, Jessica is given a tour of the Worrell Institute for Creativity.  She notices an area labeled 'Behavioral Sciences Unit' and another labeled 'Addictions Center'.  She finds it odd that a retreat center for creative people would need these types of rooms.  

During the very first week of guests at the Institute, a woman is found dead in her room.  It is being called a suicide, but Jessica and Sherrif Metzger aren't convinced.  Sheriff Metzger talks through his doubts with Jessica and asks her to let him know if she comes across anything that might help the investigation.  Jessica has been asked to give a talk at the Institute so she has an excuse to visit and talk to people there.  Before long, there is another attempted suicide by a guest at the Institute.  When a third guest steals a car and drives to a bridge where he abandons the car with a suicide note inside, Jessica and Sheriff Metzger suspect that there is some foul play going on.  Will they be able to discover the evil plot before someone else loses their life?

My thoughts:  It is always enjoyable to spend time in Cabot Cove with Jessica Fletcher and her friends.  This episode takes place in the fall and we are given some beautiful descriptions of Cabot Cove, as Jessica takes in the beauty around her.  She also spends quite a bit of time at Mara's Luncheonette where we get to know some of the locals a little better.  Her friends, Mort Mezger and Dr. Seth Hazlitt, both have large roles in this story and it was fun to get to know them a little better.  The one character I really did not like was Dr. Michael O'Neill, the director of the Worrell Institute.  The author did a great job building his character.  Every time he entered the story my skin would crawl.  As usual, Jessica knew just how to handle him.

It was obvious that the Worrell Institute played some role in the death, attempted suicide and disappearance of the characters.  The mystery involved figuring out what that role was, how it was being accomplished and proving it.  This involved Jessica having to submit herself to some uncomfortable things in order to find out the truth. Fortunately, she was able to discover what was needed and Sheriff Metzger was able to solve the mystery.  

The story was appropriate for this time of year as Jessica celebrated Thanksgiving with friends.  This was definitely a cozy read and just what I needed.


"One of my favorite rites of passage each fall has been to take a five-mile walk through Cabot Creek Preserve, a wildlife refuge with soaring, full trees that boast the most vibrant primary colors during peak foliage."

"I am very thankful for the beauty that surrounds me every day, and for the good health that allows me to enjoy it.  Maine, and this town, is a joy to behold.  But even more beautiful is the beauty that emanates from wonderful friendships.  I'm one lucky lady to have so much beauty grace my Thanksgiving table.  Thank you for sharing this day with me."

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A Walk in Falls Park

 My husband and I were recently able to take a walk in Falls Park located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  This is a 123 acre park surrounding the city's water falls.  There are walking paths around the park and along the Sioux River.  It was a beautiful, sunny, cold day when we took our walk.

The Experience Sioux Falls website claims, "An average of 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the course of the Falls each second."  

The remains of the Queen Bee Mill are located along one side of the falls.  From the Experience Sioux Falls website:

In the fall of 1878 Pettigrew decided Sioux Falls needed its own mill so farmers could avoid the cost of shipping wheat to Minnesota or Wisconsin. Pettigrew acquired the land and then traveled east to locate an investor: New Jersey capitalist George I. Seney.

The mill opened on Oct. 25, 1881, and consisted of a seven-story main structure built of Sioux Quartzite quarried on site. Nearly $500,000 was spent on the construction of the state-of-the-art mill and its supporting structures. At the time of its construction, the mill was one of the most advanced in America. The mill could process 1,500 bushels each day. However, by 1883, the mill was closed - a victim of inadequate water power and a short supply of wheat.

Several companies tried in vain to make the mill a success in succeeding years. In 1929 it was converted into a warehouse. On Jan. 30, 1956, fire swept through the structure, destroying the wooden roof and interior floors. The upper walls were later knocked down to prevent them from falling.


The area inside the fence is what is left of the building where the grain was milled.  The area is now used for open air concerts when the weather permits.

The above sign told the history of the Queen Bee Mill.  It included an amusing story about Richard Pettigrew.  He was so desperate to impress potential investors that he would send some of his workers to the dam upstream from the mill before the investors arrived.  They were instructed at a certain time to open the dam.  The water would rush down the river and over the falls, causing the investors to believe the water power was greater than it actually was.  No wonder the mill only lasted a couple of years due to lack of water power!

This statue was called "The Farmer" and was located near the visitor center.

We enjoyed our walk around the park and learned a few things while we were at it.  If you are ever in the Sioux Falls area, Falls Park is an interesting place to visit.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!


Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ I Chronicles 16:34

Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation of Thanksgiving:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

I wish those of you in the United States a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you are celebrating this day the best way that you can!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Book Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

The Vanished Bride (BrontĂ« Sisters Mystery #1)The Vanished Bride (Bronte Sisters Mystery #1).  Bella Ellis.  Berkley Books (2019). 293 pages. Genre: Mystery.

First Lines: "Haworth Parsonage, December 1851. Drawing her shawl a little closer around her, Charlotte adjusted her writing slope once more and dipped the nib of her pen back into the ink, her head bent low, nose just above the paper."

Summary:  Charlotte is remembering back to a time, a few years ago, when her sisters and brother were living at the parsonage.  As the sisters are sitting around one evening, Branwell, brother to Charlotte, Emily and Anne, returns from the pub and asks his sisters if they had heard the "terrifying and despicable" news.  It seems there has been a terrible, bloody murder in Arunton.  Charlotte realizes that her good friend is working as a governess at the very house where the murder took place.  The sisters decide that a visit is in order.  Branwell wants to come along, but they convince him that would look suspicious.

The following day the sisters make the two hour trek to Chester Grange to visit Charlotte's friend, Matilda.  What they learn on their visit is that Matilda entered the room of Mrs. Chester and discovered large quantities of blood on the floor and bed clothes.  However, no body has been found and Mrs. Chester is missing.  The constable has been to the house and interviewed Matilda; Mrs. Crawley, the housekeeper and Mr.  Chester.  Mr. Chester indicated that there was a group of gypsies squatting in the woods nearby and he suspects they may have taken Mrs. Chester.  Returning home after their visit to Chester Grange, the sisters discuss what they learned.  They think there must be clues pointing to where Mrs. Chester is.  So, they plan another visit to Chester Grange.  It seems as though the constable is not doing much investigating, so the sisters begin looking for evidence on the grounds.  They do turn up a few more clues and feel compelled to keep investigating.  Will they be able to find Mrs. Chester before its too late?

My thoughts:  Before reading this book I knew very little about the Bronte sisters.  But it seems that the author knows quite a bit as she explains in a letter to the reader at the end of the book.  She used some real life situations based on known biographical facts.  This made the book even more compelling.

I enjoyed the relationship the siblings had.  Each sister is shown as very unique with certain traits and physical attributes.  The brother, Branwell, has a smaller part in the story.  However, he causes his sisters concern because he has a habit of visiting pubs and drinking too much.  There is a poignant scene between Emily and Branwell when she finds him sprawled out on the front step early in the morning.  The sisters still argue and poke fun at one another which lends some levity to the story.  

The mystery is complex with many layers.  There is a gothic feel to parts of the story as well, which is fitting considering the characters.  

One small issue I had was that there seemed to be a negativity toward men by several of the women in the story.  I realize that times were different and women weren't given the same opportunities that we are now, but this felt stronger than it needed to be.  This idea culminated in the suggestion of a romantic relationship between two woman.

Overall, I enjoyed this mystery and look forward to reading the next book in the series.


"Emily remembered how Mama never tired of answering questions or reading books - books she'd read aloud to her daughters whether they understood them or not. These were the things Emily held on to."

"Branwell had intelligence and wit - he had a deal of talent - and yet none of it was enough to bring him any happiness or contentment within himself.  It was as if all of his life he'd been waiting for his genius to be discovered, for his talents to be lauded, without him actually having to do anything.  Branwell thought of himself as destined for great things but did no great things to earn that distinction.  He failed them all again and again, and himself in every second.  And the truth was that it did mean Emily loved him less; she loved him just a little less for not being the man he could have been, and even less still for not even trying."

Friday, November 20, 2020

Phantastes by George MacDonald, Chapters 1 - 9

PhantastesPhantastes: A Faerie Romance For Men and Women.  George MacDonald (1858). Genre: Fantasy, Classic.

I am reading Phantastes along with The Literary Life Podcast.  They are reading four or five chapters a week and then discussing it on their podcast.  I thought that I would cover just a few chapters at a time as well.

I have read other works by George MacDonald, but have never read Phantastes.  

Summary:  It begins the morning after Anodos turned twenty-one.  As he awakens, he begins to recall the strange events of the previous night.  For his birthday he was given the keys to an old secretary in which his father had kept private papers.  The room containing the secretary has not been used in many years. Anodos begins imagining what he might find among his father's papers.  Finally, he decides to use the key and open the secretary.  It is full of pigeon holes and right in the middle is a small door.  He manages to open the door and is mulling over what he sees inside when suddenly a tiny woman appears and begins speaking to Anodos.  When she jumps to the floor, she becomes a full size woman.  Anodos is overwhelmed by her beauty.  She is quick to tell him he is foolish, because she is his grandmother and tomorrow he will find his way into Fairy Land.

And so the next day he does find himself in Fairy Land.  He wakes up in a bedroom that is not his own.  As he steps out from under the tree that he slept under, he notices a faint footpath and imagines this must be the path to Fairy Land.  So he follows it for a time until it leads him into the wood.

"Here I left it, without any good reason: with a vague feeling that I ought to have followed its course, I took a more southerly direction."

Here we all want to scream, "Don't leave the path!".  Things never go well when one leaves the right path. The first woman he encounters is murmuring warnings about certain trees.  She does not necessarily acknowledge that Anodos is there, but she seems to be warning him.

"I could not conjecture what she meant, but satisfied myself with thinking that it would be time enough to find out her meaning when there was need to make use of her warning, and that the occasion would reveal the admonition."

As Anodos journeys on he meets several more beings, some good and others not good.  Along the way he also unleashes his shadow, by not heeding a warning.  Now it won't leave him.  Near the end of chapter nine, he has come upon a village whose inhabitants appear to be human.  They seem to be avoiding him.  He notices that when he gets close to one of them, the appearance of the person changes.

"The nature of the change was grotesque, following no fixed rule.  The nearest resemblance to it that I know, is the distortion produced in your countenance when you look at it as reflected in a concave or convex surface - say, either side of a bright spoon."

My thoughts:  Fantasy is not a genre that I read very often.  However, I am really enjoying Phantastes.  George MacDonald had a large influence on the writing of C.S. Lewis and also J. R. R. Tolkien.  I see echos of both of their works in this story.  I also am reminded of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

This is the story of a journey.  A physical journey in a land not like ours, but also a spiritual journey.  While the land is not like ours, there are so many comparisons that can be made to our lives.  

I am really enjoying following along with The Literary Life Podcast and their discussions.  I am learning a lot.  

If you are interested in listening to the podcast, here are the links:

Episode 71:  Phantastes, Ch. 1-4

Episode 72: Phantastes, Ch. 5-9

The next episode will cover chapters 10-14.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Small Joys Tag

Fall, Autumn, Red, Season, Woods, Nature

Kathy at tagged me!

The tag originated at . 

We are to list 15 small joys in our life, then tag 5 other bloggers who bring us joy.

Here are my small joys:

1.  A hot cup of coffee with cream.

2. The view of the sun setting out my front window.

3. Bird song anytime, but especially in the morning.

4. The excitement of starting a new book.

5. Taking walks with my husband.

6.  A fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookie.

7.  Talking with my kids.

8.  Early morning Bible reading.

9.  Rays of sunlight on the wood floor.

10. The snuggles of a fuzzy dog.

11. Phone calls to far away loved ones.

12. The smell of a fire on an autumn day.

13. The crispness of a brilliantly sunny, cold day in the winter.

14. Watching the world go by from my front porch on a warm evening.

15.  Singing a worship song in church surrounded by other voices.

I agree with Kathy, that was relaxing and fun!  And now I tag all of you.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Book Review: A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

A Fall of MarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds.  Susan Meissner.  Penguin (2014). 370 pages.  Genre: Historical Fiction.

First Lines:  "Manhattan.  September 2011.  The length of floral-patterned challis rested on the cutting table like a bridal bouquet undone."

Summary:  This novel tells the stories of two women who lived through two horrific events ninety years apart.  

Taryn was in Manhattan heading to meet her husband for breakfast on 9/11/01 when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.  Her husband was in that tower.  Taryn should have been there as well, but she was delayed.  She had discovered that she was pregnant and texted her husband about meeting her for breakfast at the top of the south tower so she could tell him the news.  

Clara was a young nurse working on the third floor of the Asch Building in New York.   In the same building, several floors up, was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  Clara had met Edward Brim in the elevators.  He worked for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  He was very kind to her and she began looking forward to running into him.  He had asked her if she would like a tour of the factory and she was supposed to meet him the day the fire broke out.  Clara was able to get out of the building, but Edward was on the ninth floor where he was supposed to meet Clara and was not able to escape the fire.  

The one thing that connects their stories is a beautiful copper-colored scarf covered in marigolds.

My thoughts:  I had read recommendations for this book, but kept putting off reading it.  So, for 2020, I put it on a list of books I wanted to be sure and read this year.  

Susan Meissner tells a good story.  I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened.  

The bulk of the book tells Clara's story.  We only get a few chapters telling Taryn's story.  This was okay.  It was enough to help the reader know her story and connect it with Clara's story.  Part of the reason I kept putting this off was that I really didn't want to read an indepth story about someone who went through 9/11.  Taryn definitely did live through that day and we are given a good idea of what she went through, but it is brief.  

Clara's story is tragic, but I kept thinking that she was rather naive.  I don't want to give away too much of the story, but I felt like she was living in a dream land.  I kept reading because some things began to be revealed.  One of the themes in the story was that things are not always as they seem and this led to several twists and turns and unexpected happenings.  

I didn't know much about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, so it was interesting to learn about it.  After the fire, Clara took a job working on Ellis Island.  It was interesting to learn a little about the hospitals there.  The hospitals treated immigrants who got off ships and were ill.  One of the characters gets off a ship that had several passengers die of Scarlet Fever.  There is one wing of the hospital that is a quarantine ward for passengers who were on ships with contagious illnesses.  It was interesting to see the protocols the doctors and nurses went through to protect themselves from illness.

Both of these characters go through some really hard situations that are vividly shown.  It was definitely quite sad in places.  But, at the same time, the story is filled with hope.  Both characters grow over the course of the book and end up in a good place at the end.  It left me wanting to know what happens next.  

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Book Review: Wonton Terror (Noodle Shop Mystery #4) by Vivien Chien

Wonton Terror (A Noodle Shop Mystery, #4)Wonton Terror (Noodle Shop Mystery #4).  Vivien Chien.  St. Martin's Press (2019).  294 pages. Genre:  Cozy Mystery.

First Lines: "'The Poconos or Put-in-Bay?' I waved two travel brochures in front of my good friend and restaurant chef, Peter Huang."

Summary:  Lana Lee, manager of Ho-Lee Noodle House, and chef, Peter Huang, are setting up their booth at the first Asian Night Market of the summer.  This will be a great opportunity to introduce more people to the food served at Ho-Lee Noodle House.  The Market includes several other booths or food trucks selling various things.  One of the food trucks, Wonton on Wheels, is owned by Sandra and Ronnie Chow, friends of Lana's parents.  The families have drifted apart over the years, but Lana still remembers spending time at their house playing with their son Calvin.  

As Lana is preparing her booth for business, she notices Sandra and Ronnie arguing.  She can't tell what they are saying, but it looks pretty heated.  After Sandra has walked away, she notices Ronnie arguing with another man.  Lana decides to say "hello" to Sandra and see if she can discover what is going on.  Sandra is talking with another woman who was friends with her mother.  Lana doesn't remember Ruby, but after Sandra walks away, Ruby fills Lana in on what is going on between Ronnie and Sandra.  Apparently Ronnie always behaves like this.  Ruby doesn't understand how Sandra puts up with it.  Lana tucks this information away as she heads back to her booth to open up for the evening.

The first Asian Night Market is a success.  As Peter and Lana are closing up for the evening, Peter becomes away of a hissing sound and grabs Lana and throws her to the ground.  Before Lana even realizes what is happening, there is a large explosion.  As the dust clears and the authorities arrive, it is discovered that it was Wonton on Wheels that exploded and Ronnie was inside.  Well, it seems that Ronnie has made plenty of enemies, but are any of them capable of murder?

My thoughts:  I always enjoy spending time with Lana and her family at the Noodle Shop.  This time the action doesn't take place near the restaurant, which was a nice change.  Lana's Aunt Grace, sister of her mother, comes for a visit.  This adds some tension, as Lana's mother is anxious about her sister visiting.  They tend to argue a lot.  They have chosen completely different lifestyles and this puts them at odds.  The stress that this puts on the entire family causes Lana and her sister, Anna May, to examine their own relationship.  This added some depth to the story.  

Lana's roommate, Meagan, encourages Lana to do some investigating.  Since Lana has connections to the Chow family it is easy for her to ask questions.  Lana is still dating Detective Adam Trudeau, but he is not the detective on this case, so he has a much smaller part in this story.  

The mystery was challenging.  It seemed as if it were only Lana doing the investigating.  The detective in charge was introduced, but didn't appear in the story again.  That was a little odd.  However, Lana doesn't realize who the killer is until she has stumbled into a certain situation where there is no longer any doubt.  It wasn't a huge surprise.  

Overall, this was a nice addition to this series.  I especially enjoyed watching Lana grow in relationships with her family.  

Monday, November 9, 2020

Book Review: God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet

God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of MedicineGod's Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. Victoria Sweet. Riverhead Books (2012). 372 pages. Genre: Memoir.

First Lines:  "It was my first autopsy, my first day in the clinical clerkship of medical school called pathology.

Of course, I had seen and even taken apart dead bodies before, in the first months of medical school, but those had been bodies that were clearly ex-bodies."

Summary:  When Victoria Sweet first entered medical school she intended to pursue psychiatry.  After two years of medical school a student begins practicing what they have learned on real patients.  She found she loved the process of taking the patient's "history", the actual process of examining the patient and noticing what clues the condition had written on the body and then analyzing the facts and coming to a conclusion which is a diagnosis and plan for treatment.  When she finished medical school she realized that psychiatry "had changed since Jung" and this was a bad thing in her mind.  So, she practiced medicine in a country clinic.  

Ever since that first autopsy in medical school she wondered about the invisible force that made a body alive and when it left made the body dead.  While practicing medicine she continued to research.  It was during this research that she discovered a book about a German nun's medical practice in the Middle Ages.  This is how she began to learn about "premodern medicine".  She discovered that, unlike modern medicine, "The body was not imagined as a machine nor disease as a mechanical breakdown."  This was thrilling and she wanted to learn more. So she began looking for a position that would allow her to practice medicine while also pursuing a doctorate in the history of medicine.  

This led her to Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco.  

"Laguna Honda was an almshouse, she explained as we started, or, as the French called it, an Hotel-Dieu - God's Hotel - a kind of hospital from the Middle Ages that evolved as a way of taking care of those who couldn't take care of themselves."

There was a time in our history when every county had an almshouse.  Laguna Honda was the last almshouse in America.  Dr. Sweet was hired as a part-time physician and this book is the story of the years she spent there.

My thoughts:  What a fascinating book!  Victoria Sweet is an amazing storyteller and that made this book hard to put down.  

As she tells the story of her time at Laguna Honda we are introduced to some of the doctors and nurses she works with as well as some of her patients.  As in a great work of fiction, I fell in love with many of them.  

While working at the hospital she is also pursuing a doctorate in medical history and it is interesting to follow her on this journey which eventually takes her to Switzerland for a year.  Along the way she shares with the reader what she is learning. 

Many changes begin to take place at Laguna Honda.  The Department of Justice is sent to do a review.  After months of investigation and pages of reports, the DOJ found Laguna Honda to be inefficient, unsafe and lacking privacy.  Changes would need to be made.  Dr. Sweet thought about these things as she made her rounds.  It may be true that things were inefficient, but sometimes that inefficiency was actually more efficient than the so called efficient methods and often saved more money.

For example, there is the case of Mrs. Muller.  She became Dr. Sweet's patient when she was brought in to Laguna Honda because she just couldn't manage anymore.  Eight months ago she had broken her hip.  She had had surgery to replace the hip and was sent home.  However, after the surgery she became delirious.  Her workup showed no acute medical problems, so her doctors concluded that she had undiagnosed Alzheimer's disease that was causing the psychosis and started her on an antipsychotic medication.  She was also found to have diabetes and put on medication for that.  She remained confused even though she was on the antipsychotic medication and became withdrawn and unable to manage her diabetes.  She complained that her hip hurt.  All of these things are what brought her to Laguna Honda.  

Dr. Sweet always started by meeting with a new patient.  That way she could examine them for herself regardless of what the chart might say.  She expected Mrs. Muller to be withdrawn and confused, but when she greeted her, she got a "Good afternoon" in response.  She knew her name, where she was, the date and what was wrong with her.  An Alzheimer's patient would not necessarily be able to tell her these things.  As she continued the physical examination, she couldn't find any of the subtle signs of diabetes.  On examining her hip, she found very restricted range of motion which is unusual 6 months after surgery.  After taking an x-ray she discovered that Mrs. Muller's new hip was dislocated which is what was causing her pain and lack in range of motion.  She scheduled surgery to put the hip back in place.  After this she seemed better, more relaxed.  Once her hip healed from the surgery, Dr. Sweet discontinued the pain medication.  Mrs. Muller became brighter and stronger.  In a few more weeks, Dr. Sweet wondered if she was really demented or psychotic.  She decided to try taking her off of the antipsychotic medication.  This process takes several weeks of tapering the medication.  Mrs. Muller got brighter and stronger each day.  She asked if she could go to physical therapy and learn to walk again.  After 3 months she was doing quite well and Dr. Sweet revisited her diabetes diagnosis.  She didn't see any physical signs of long-term diabetes and so decided to gradually taper her off of the insulin to see what would happen.  Nothing happened.  She was fine without the insulin.  Mrs. Muller did eventually go home.

Dr. Sweet's point was that at Laguna Honda they had time to do this type of thing.  Also, the doctors weren't specialized and were able to look at all the angles.  The efficiency of the health-care system meant that they wanted to take care of the problem in the quickest way possible.  There was no time to observe and wait.  Also it meant, for example, that the physical therapist only worked on physical therapy and didn't try to figure out why Mrs. Muller's range of motion was limited, the nurses gave her insulin, but didn't question whether she needed it or not.  They didn't work together to make sure the patient was whole, they didn't have time.  So, if she would have come to Laguna Honda first, where they were inefficient and able to just observe a patient for a while, they could have saved so much time, discomfort and money.

Another example of inefficiency was Miss Lester.  She had been the director of nursing for thirty-six years.  She had accepted the position right after she got out of the army.  She ran the hospital with a firm hand and an underlying softness.  But if something needed typed, Miss Lester typed it, she answered the telephone, she made calls and she spoke with patients and family members.  Every morning at 6:30 am she met the nursing supervisor of the night and the nursing supervisor of the morn.  Together they went to see every patient in the hospital, all 1,178 of them.  This took approximately 3 hours every single day.  Miss Lester knew everything about every patient and was able to give orders to each head nurse.  In this way Miss Lester gave her patients the very best care and was able to instruct her nurses in providing what was necessary.  

Dr. Sweet began to refer to this process of observing a patient, sitting with them, trying things as Slow Medicine.  

After she finishes her doctorate in medical history, Dr. Sweet takes a pilgrimage.  She decided on the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  Because of her work schedule she would need to divide the pilgrimage into four sections and complete them in four years.  The story of each pilgrimage is short and interspersed into whatever was going on at that time in the hospital.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.  


"It used to be that all doctors knew Latin.  For centuries, medical books were written in Latin; medical terms were derived from Latin; and, most important, in the days before science, the knowledge of Latin differentiated the physician from the traditional healer."

"Instead it was the Christian monastery of the Middle Ages that originated the hospital system we know today.  In the monastery, caring for the sick was the foremost Christian duty, and each monastery had, therefore, a hospice for taking care of the sick poor and an infirmary for taking care of the sick monks."

"She was expected to die of liver failure, and soon.  Her crime was alcohol.  Now, the liver can tolerate many years of drinking; unlike the brain, heart, or limbs, under the right conditions the liver can regenerate and reconstruct itself."

"There'd been the shutting down of most of the almshouses in the country; then the phasing out of most of the free county hospitals; and, last but not least, the closing of the state mental hospitals.  The closing of the state mental hospitals was particularly disastrous, the result of an unwitting but agreeable collusion of the Left and Right; the Left being convinced that institutionalization of any kind was harmful, and the Right, that institutionalization of any kind was expensive."

"And it made me wonder whether fun, although inefficient, might actually be therapeutic and, therefore, efficient."

"This being Laguna Honda, however, I had the time to wait and see - for family and friends to show up and fill me in on the details; for Mr. Tam to get better or worse or stay the same; for a trial of medications to treat his possible depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's.  In short, for Slow Medicine to do its job."

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Book Review: Vow of Justice by Lynette Eason

Vow of Justice (Blue Justice, #4)Vow of Justice (Blue Justice #4).  Lynette Eason.  Fleming H. Revell Co. (2019). 336 pages.  Genre:  Romantic Suspense.

First Line:  "FBI Special Agent Allison Radcliffe fingered the key in her apron pocket, debating whether she could break into Vladislav Nevsky's office without getting caught."

Summary:  FBI Special Agent Lincoln St. John and his partner Allison Radcliffe are working to uncover evidence against a major player in the Russian Mafia.  Allison is undercover as personal cook for Nevsky.  While employed in his home she has grown close to his 17-year-old daughter, Daria.  Allison has finally found the right opportunity to enter Nevsky's office and download files from his computer while looking for any other evidence she can find.  She is caught, but Daria covers for her and Nevsky buys her story.  Linc insists that it is time for Allison to get out of there.  

While in Nevsky's office, Allison was able to take pictures of some documents showing that Nevsky was involved in selling military equipment.  The agents are on a catamaran outside the military base doing surveillance.  As they are waiting for something to happen, they spot a drone flying towards them.  They realize too late what is happening and the drone hits the catamaran causing an explosion.  Linc and Allie are separated in the explosion.  When Linc wakes up in a hospital, he is told Allie didn't make it.  When he finds out she is really alive, Linc and Allie begin working together to discover what happened and to take down Nevsky and his network once and for all.

My thoughts:  This is the fourth and final book in the Blue Justice series and it was a page turner!  I have really enjoyed the St. John family and getting to know them individually through the books.  If you are not familiar with this series, the St. John family consists of Tabitha St. John, Chief of Police, her husband Marcus, who is a lawyer and their six grown children who are all involved in law enforcement in some way.  They are a close knit family who make time to get together regularly, often for Sunday dinner. 

This story stars Lincoln St. John (Linc) and his partner Allie.  Linc and Allie have grown to care for one another, but think it is unwise to get involved romantically because they are partners.  Allie is most hesitant because of some things she went through in her past.  As the story progresses, so does their relationship, but that aspect always stays in the background and doesn't overshadow the main story.  

Allie's past plays a large part in this story and by the end all is revealed.  There are lots of secrets to be uncovered as well as plenty of twists, turns and surprises.  Allie's past is dark, but the author never allowed it to get too heavy.  At a pivotal point in the story, Allie has the opportunity to take revenge, but she remembers something Linc said to her, "Justice and revenge are two very different things".  It is in that moment that she is able to stop herself and realizes that revenge does not belong to her.  

This book was fast-paced and kept me engaged throughout.  

Monday, November 2, 2020

Book Review: Tide and Punishment by Bree Baker

Tide and Punishment (Seaside CafĂ© Mystery, #3)Tide and Punishment (Seaside Cafe Mystery #3). Bree Baker.  Poisoned Pen Press (2019). 384 pages. Genre:  Cozy Mystery.

First Lines:  "'Merry Christmas,' I called to a pair of newly arriving guests.  'Welcome to Sun, Sand, and Tea.'  I rushed to shut the door against a wave of icy air and fought a head-to-toe shiver."

Summary:  It's just a few weeks before Christmas and the town of Charm, North Carolina has experienced a snow storm.  This is unusual for them and it is making travel difficult.  Everly Swan, owner of Sun, Sand and Tea is hosting a Christmas party and has invited the whole town.  Despite the snow and cold, many come to sample the delicious treats Everly has prepared.  Aunt Fran and Aunt Clara are there to help serve.  Aunt Fran also plans to announce that she will be running for mayor next fall.  

Everly is surprised to see Mayor Dunfree and his wife arrive.  Aunt Fran is downright livid and suspects that he heard she was going to announce her intention to run for mayor and has come to crash the party.  Sure enough, when Clara and Fran greet the mayor he mentions he intends to make an announcement tonight.  Fran takes this as her cue to make her announcement soon.  Just as she has finished the announcement, Mayor Dunfree jumps up, clapping aggressively and begins a speech with "I commend your bravery,...".  He goes on to say some things about Fran that at first seem kind, but are really meant to point out that she is not experienced enough for the position.  He then continues by making his announcement to run for re-election, extolling his own virtues.  As he is speaking, Fran slips outside for some air.  

As the guests begin to leave, Everly realizes she hasn't seen Fran in a while.  Not seeing her in the cafe, she steps outside to look for her.  Just as she does, she hears a scream and recognizes it as her aunt.  When she finds her she is bent down holding one of the garden gnomes painted by Clara.  It is broken and Everly soon realizes that it was used to hit Mayor Dunfree in the head.  He is lying nearby, dead.  Everything is pointing to Fran as the murderer, but Everly knows her aunt didn't do it.  Will they be able to discover the real murderer before Fran is arrested?

My thoughts:  I really enjoy the characters in this series and it has been fun to watch them grow.  Everly and her aunts share a strong bond that really comes through in this story.  The aunts are very close and both love Everly and are very willing to help her out even though they have their own shop to run.  As the evidence pointing to Fran as the killer continues to mount, you can feel the pain that Everly is feeling.  She is a very kind, giving person who loves to help others and can hardly stand to see someone she loves suffering.

Detective Grady Hays is back as well.  He and Everly continue to get to know one another as they work "together" on solving this murder.  Grady continues to urge Everly not to get involved, but as she begins asking questions around town, she makes the killer angry.  There are some tense moments as the killer's anger escalates and more people are threatened.

There are several new characters in this story as well.  Some are just visiting for the holidays and others live in the area, but Everly has just met them.  They add interest and I hope to see them in future books. 

This killer was cunning and used several things to throw the police off.  There really weren't any clues pointing to the culprit, so I was not sure of the killer until Everly was.  

An added bonus was the Christmas season.  This lent a festive air to an otherwise difficult situation.  There was a message of hope that prevailed throughout the story.  This book could be read as a stand alone, but I wouldn't recommend it as you would miss out on the growth and development of the characters.  This was an enjoyable read full of mystery, suspense and holiday cheer.